Sunday, March 15, 2015

Morning Television

A regular day as the weatherman on CBS would start like this.

The alarm would go off at four in the morning, that's early for anyone. The alarm would go off and I'd wake up and get out of bed.

I didn't drink coffee, so no help there. I didn't grow up drinking coffee in the morning although I knew people who did.

Plenty of them.

The real reason was that caffeine speeds you up, that's the intent. Coffee helps you to be alert and wide awake in the morning but it has a side effect for me. My timing is off. And if you try to be funny you always want your timing to be natural on the air. So coffee was out.

I took a shower and got dressed. Suit and tie was standard. I didn't eat in the morning, either. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said in one of his early movies, "Stay Hungry." A full stomach would make me sluggish. I was better empty.

I would go outside where a car would be waiting. People have always asked, "Did a limo pick you up for work?"

Not exactly.

Here's how it is early in the morning and the powers that be want you to make it to the studio in one piece. Wandering around at that time of day is not exactly the safest thing to do, so CBS would send a car to get you. A Lincoln Town Car.

While we're talking about early let me say this...four in the morning in real America is quiet. Deserted streets. Lights out in the houses. Very few cars on the road. Maybe a dog barking but that's about it.

In New York? The city is still jumping. Cabs full. People on the streets. The city that never sleeps? Never ever sleeps. Even that early.

I would get in the car and off I went.

There was surprisingly little conversation in the car but it wasn't a fair fight really. The driver had been up for hours. Me? Minutes. I was still groggy and a bit quiet. I did notice that it's easy to get crosstown at that time of day. Traffic in New York should always be this light. And just like that, I was at the studio and the real day began.

The crew I worked with were veterans of getting up early. I would say my 'Good Mornings' and bloodshot eyes would say the same back. Our conversation was virtually the same every day. It revolved around sleep. Or the lack of it. "I got a nap yesterday." "You got a nap?" "I was up past nine." "Past nine? What are you, crazy?" " I gotta get off this shift."

Every day.

The first thing I did in my office was to call my meteorologist to get the skinny on the day's weather. Although I was the weatherman, he would come in at midnight, look at all the models and computers, and present his findings to me. The weather information, he would put together. The rest of it, the presentation on air, the ad libs, the personality, I took care of that.

Eventually I wandered down to Hair and Makeup, traditionally the coolest people on the set. They had tattoos, spiked hair, piercings, they were just... cool.There's a place for all kinds of people on a morning news show. Not all of the places are in front of the camera.

Because I didn't need much hair attention it was mainly makeup, though I did learn what anti-shine was. If you have hair like a Kennedy, you have no idea what it is. I knew. If I didn't use it, you'd see studio lights glaring off the top of my head. Not good.

Welcome to anti-shine.

When that process was done, it was time to go to the set.

Cameras...lights...the whole Magilla.

You schmoozed with the anchors; Harry Smith, Kathleen Sullivan, Bryant Gumbel and Paula Zahn were a few of mine, but you didn't schmooze too much. They were busy prepping, going over their interviews and talking on camera to affiliates about highlights of that day's show. For me, it was mainly talking to the stage hands and camera guys.

The clock was always very important because we  were live, not taped.

"Five minutes."

Lots of yawns.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and we're on.


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